Fish Handling Procedures

Koi fish eat floating fish food

When introducing fish into a new environment it is important to take special considerations to ensure that not only the fish will survive but also that the aquatic habitat will survive. 

Before adding new pond fish it is important to check with the local conservation office to see if there are any restrictions regarding the movement of certain species of fish.  For example, in New York State homeowners are required to obtain a fish stocking permit before introducing any fish into any “significant body of water.” 

The best type of fish to add to your pond will depend on if you have a pond with a liner or a natural bottom pond without a liner.

The best pond fish for a natural bottom pond without a liner, like a farm pond, are fish that are native to the area.  Native fish have already evolved to survive in their native range, eating food indigenous to the area making them more likely to survive and prosper.  Among the native species are varieties of fish suited to your pond management goals.

The best pond fish for a pond with a liner, like a water garden, depends on how big the water garden is and the level of care the owner is willing to give to fish sensitive to changes in their environment.  Ornamental fish, such as koi and goldfish, are intended to be placed in water gardens, ponds with liners and aquariums.  Ornamental fish should never be released into natural ponds, lakes, rivers, or other significant bodies of waters. 

Because water gardens, goldfish ponds and koi ponds tend to be closed systems it is recommended that all new fish are placed in a quarantine tank for 5 to 7 days to observe any unusual reactions.  A quarantine tank should be well aerated and filled with 50 percent pond water and 50 percent dechlorinated tap water.  This quarantine period will give your new fish time for an infection to show itself before entering the pond as well as allow time for an immunity to build up against whatever is already within your pond.

If your fish are being transported in a plastic bag the method for introducing them to their new environment is the same whether you are adding them directly to your pond or into a fish quarantine tank.  Once you get your fish home or they arrive on your doorstep visually inspect your fish before opening the bag.

If the fish appear to be in good shape, keep the bag closed and float the bag of fish in your pond or fish quarantine tank.  Be sure to shade the fish from direct sunlight to ensure that the temperature inside the bag does not rise too quickly.  Allow the bag to float for ten to fifteen minutes in your pond before following the steps below. 

If the fish appear stressed, like they are gasping for air or lying on their side, immediately place the bag in your pond or fish quarantine tank.  Open the bag and add about one gallon of pond water to the bag and wait 3 to 5 minutes. 

Add another gallon of pond water and wait another 3 to 5 minutes before releasing them into your pond.  When adding fish to water gardens or ponds with liners it is best to scoop the fish out of the bag and place them into the pond to keep as much water from the bag out of your pond.

Rainbow trout for fish stockingFish are very sensitive to major in their environment.  Taking the steps outlined above will help get your new fish acclimated to the water temperature and any differences in water chemistry.